From now until December 13, Walt Disney Studios is offering an exclusive engagement of Disney’s The Princess and the Frog in both New York City and Los Angeles. Purchasing a ticket not only entitles the ticket bearer the opportunity to experience Disney’s return to the animated musical, but guests are also invited to the Ultimate Disney Experience, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with all nine Disney Princesses as well as engage in several other activities in celebration for the new film.
In New York City, the Ultimate Disney Experience has taken up residence in the Roseland Ballroom, a massive event space that one is typically more likely to find a music concert in rather than a full family experience. But taken up residence, Disney has. From the moment you step into the building, let alone approach it, you are immersed in floor-to-ceiling scenery and props, bringing the New Orleans from the film to life.
The area that’s usually a bar has been transformed into a boardwalk with classic midway games inspired by The Princess and the Frog: In Mardi Gras Madness, the object is to toss ping-pong balls in various containers; in Leap Frog, guests load frog beanie plushes on a spring loaded lily pad and try to land the frogs on lily pads on the other side; and in a darts game, guests aim velcro darts at ‘voodoo dolls’ plastered all over giant targets. The games are free and players are rewarded with Princess and the Frog temporary tattoos.
In the main ballroom area, what appear to be circus cars are set up around the room for each of the eight princesses prior to Tiana. Each elevated stage features the Disney Princess against a rich, scenic backdrop reflecting their respective film. As for Tiana herself, she quite literally takes center stage on a large platform of her own. In the interest of time, the princesses are unable to sign autographs, so each child is instead presented with a special commemorative sheet featuring the (facsimile) autograph of all of the princesses. There aren’t any photographers on staff either, so guests will need to bring their own cameras to take pictures.
Diving deeper into the bayou of a ballroom is the Bayou Adventure, a playground for all ages (but mostly the younger ones). Blue foam cubes provide act as safe water as kids can bounce from lily pad to lily pad or simply go for a swim. The play area also features tire swings, a slide, a mini-obstacle course and more.
Next to the Bayou Adventure is Tiana’s Crafts, a large creative area where guests can do anything from color to make masquerade masks and paper tiaras to origami frogs.
Even more treasures are to be found upstairs where a Disney animator conducts the Learn to be a Disney Animator class which is similar to the Animation Academy found at Disney’s California Adventure and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but this one focuses particularly on the film. Multiple sessions are held throughout the experience (see posted times for when the next one is being conducted). The class I watched was on drawing Dr. Facilier and it seemed a bit more involved than the theme park editions of this favorite, but it’s definitely worth a look.
Also found upstairs is one of two green-screen photo opportunities (the other is located on the lowest level of the building) where families can have themselves imposed on a choice of three different backgrounds from the film. The photos can then be claimed later by going to a website and entering in the code provided on a card.
On both levels, is a large selection of wardrobe, props and more from the Walt Disney Studio Archives, brilliantly enough with a bit of a slant on the New York side. Full length costumes are found in giant, mirrored cases on the lower floor and feature Elizabeth Swann’s wedding dress, Giselle’s dress and a dress worn by Toni Braxton as Belle in the Broadway musical. Upstairs is a series of props (again, including some from Enchanted and Beauty and the Beast) along with classics, contemporaries and even the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.
And last, but certainly not least, is Charlotte’s Closet (a.k.a. the gift shop) which greets guests as they both enter and leave the experience, where one can purchase anything Tiana including theme park merchandise.
But above all else, the atmosphere during the event was beyond expectations. ‘Cast members’ (it’s not clear who actually works for Disney and who was brought on for the gig) were generally in high spirits, generous and very much a part of making the experience.
There’s no question that the folks of Disney worked hard to create an exciting event, especially being a temporary one, and it’s genuinely a top-notch experience all the way. For those wishing to attend (and I encourage all who can to do so), do expect to spend close to 2 hours here in addition to the film.
Below is a gallery of photos from last night’s sneak preview I was fortunate enough to attend. As always, you can click on the thumbnails to see a larger version and then click on the cross-hairs to see the full size, although I recommend using the PicLens link to view it as a slideshow, preferably at full screen.